Sharjah leads the way in the Middle East

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One UAE gateway is taking its green credentials very seriously

Sharjah International airport and Sharjah Aviation Services are making a concerted effort to ensure that the gateway is as environmentally friendly as possible. Regarding itself as the first airport in the Middle East to plan a major initiative to ‘go green’, it has a detailed plan of how to improve its environmental footprint, explains Tony Smith, general manager of Sharjah Aviation Services (SAS) – which provides a comprehensive range of ground handling services at the facility.

The gateway is adopting a multi-pronged approach to reducing its impact on the environment, seeking to make progress in terms including reduced emissions and cleaner air, the use of solar energy, no fuel spills and the use of clean el   ectric power – all combining to form “a more hygienic environment”.

Smith observes: “As with all industries worldwide, any opportunities to reduce emissions and protect the environment must be taken up in the best interests of our global state.

“My aim is to help provide Sharjah International airport and the community of Sharjah with a much cleaner and safer environment and I am proud to work with the local government and airport community to provide such an initiative.”

Ground support equipment (GSE) is one area in which significant strides are being made by SAS. “We would like to reduce our fleet of 200 diesel and petrol-powered vehicles by 75 percent by the year 2020,” Smith points out. And the next five years are expected to see the replacement of all SAS’s diesel-fuelled vehicles, a programme that will require an investment of 10 million Emirati dirhams (US$2.7 million).

Sharjah already boasts a significant amount of electrically-powered GSE and the initiative as a whole is expected to take in the acquisition of 20 new 9-tonne electric baggage tractors, 15 25-tonne electric baggage and a potential 20 electric belt loaders in a transition from current equipment supported by GSE suppliers Charlatte Manutention and TLD.

Green technology

SAS has previously invested in a number of electric tugs provided to them by Charlatte Manutention and TLD. In terms of the former, the UAE gateway currently employs two Charlatte Manutention T135 20-tonne electric baggage tractors and one of its smaller 8-tonne electric models but the hope is that these three will form part of a much larger procurement programme as Sharjah airport continues in its efforts to go green.

These vehicles represent an important part of that process, says Sebastian Hoyos, the France-based export sales manager for Charlatte Manutention – a company forming part of the huge building and public works conglomerate Fayat Group.  As well as the very obvious environmental benefits – and the consequently more positive image offered by a gateway clearly concerned by its environmental footprint – the economic advantages are apparent, he notes, in fuel savings and lower maintenance costs.

The electric tugs also represent a significant improvement in operator comfort and wellbeing, Hoyos continues, the equipment making less noise and offering less vibration.

As well as its electric tractors and hoppers – of which it has as many as 10,000 deployed at airports across the world – Charlatte Manutention also offers a range of other specialised electric equipment, such as wheelchair lifts and electric lavatory trucks. Headquartered in France, it also maintains a subsidiary, Charlatte of America.

According to Hoyos, its main market remain in the US and Europe, but he is seeing increasing interest in the Middle East in more environmentally friendly technology, such as its electric tractors.

TLD’s offering

Another major supplier of electric GSE to SAS has been TLD, a global supplier of what it describes as “a complete range of ground support equipment” to airlines, airports, cargo carriers, ground handlers and military forces. In just the last two years, it has sold equipment to 500 customers across 117 countries.

Electrical GSE offered by TLD includes aircraft pushback tractors, belt loaders, baggage tractors, cargo loaders, air conditioning units and passenger steps. While the company has offered electric GSE for more than 15 years, the share of electrically-powered products in its product mix has been relatively marginal, but that situation is now changing.

TLD is eager to co-operate with its worldwide customers in the evolution of more cost-efficient and more environmentally friendly equipment, confirms its director of sales and services in Dubai, Christophe Lesbaudy. Sharjah Aviation Services has been a very important customer for TLD over the last few years, supplying SAS with an electric conveyor belt and two electric baggage tractors, and Lesbaudy is confident of many more deals to come.

The electrical equipment that it is supplying to Sharjah will undoubtedly lower the gateway’s environmental impact, he believes, as well as offer financial benefits – lower maintenance, and of course not using fuel at a time of very high fuel prices.

The Middle East has always been an important market for TLD and that is why it decided in 2008 to open a new office in Dubai. “Being present locally with the support of three field technicians and a spare parts manager gives our customers a lot of confidence in our capacity to support them once equipment is delivered,” Lesbaudy says.